I was chatting with my mom over the weekend about how the different online advertising campaigns she was trying were doing for her business. She is the business manager and co-owner of a chiropractic wellness center in Georgia. What I heard made me cringe. She told me that the money she was spending on internet advertising wasn’t providing a return on investment. She also told me that after several years of trying various online advertising campaigns most of her business still comes from word of mouth advertising.
Over the last few year my mom spent a couple thousand dollars on various strategies to help prospective customers find her business on the Internet. At this point however, she told me that going forward she was ready to rely strictly on word of mouth advertising to bring in new customers and would no longer worry about trying to use the internet for advertising.
Since word of mouth advertising is paying most of the bills, I see why she came to this conclusion. Her business is surviving with word of mouth advertising. However, based on what I see, it is not thriving like it could if she was using the internet to its full potential. My recommendation to her as well as any other small business who depends on word of mouth advertising is to add a email advertising program focused on creating a viral loop to the mix. If you are not familiar with the science of the viral loop then I suggest you stop and read this blog post I wrote before you finish this one.
My specific recommendation for for her was to create a word of mouth viral loop using email. This will not only work for my mom, but also for any other business owner who survives with word of mouth adverting. Below are the steps you should consider taking in your business:
- The very first thing you should do is identify the customers who are providing you the most word of mouth business. Incorporate a “who referred you” question into your first time customer forms (or new patient forms in my mom’s case)
- Once you have a good idea of the top 10 to 20 customers sending you the most business, request that they opt-in to their own unique email marketing list. These are your best customers, so you don’t have to be shy about being direct with them as well as offering them a few great incentives for opting-in.
- Create an email campaign that goes out to this list of best customers about every 10 days. Make these customers feel special by giving them inside information about your upcoming products, services, and events. Also, be sure to provide them exclusive offers they can share with their friends. Tell them directly that these offers are special and are not the same as what you offer the general public. Tell them they are getting the opportunity to share these offers because they are VIP.
- Put the summary of an interesting or surprising news story or research report into the email. Make sure it is related to you business and relate it back to the exclusive offer you are providing if you can. Then specifically encourage them to forward the email to their friends.
- Create a secret URL on your website with the offers that your best customers can tell people about in everyday conversation and share with their online friends. Make sure the url is short and/or easy to remember. Tell them it is a secret url that only a few people know about.
- Make sure the offer is set-up so you can track new customers back to the offer and the person who referred them. This can be done using simple form fields that are required when someone signs-up and does not require anything complicated.
- Keep adding new customers to your “best customer” email list. Keep refining your emails by asking the receipts what the like and what they don’t. Keep improving and changing your offers until you find what works best. This final step is all about continuous improvement.
As you can see, an email advertising campaign designed to engage your best word of mouth customers is easily implemented with a few simple steps. There is no doubt that this straight-forward email program will amplify your word of mouth referrals and get you on the path of going viral. Your goal is to get your best customers to provide at least 3 referrals every month/quarter/year (whatever fits your business), and then get at least 50% of those referrals to do the same.